• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Holiday Blues

Something odd happens around the holidays. Some folks feel the pressure of gathering together as a healthy, happy family, but just cannot because they aren't.


Maybe they lost a loved one to death in the last year, and that death still stings too much to enjoy a gathering. Maybe an old disagreement has still not been aired and reconciled, and proximity to the other feels impossible. Maybe forgiveness is being withheld, or judgment is being cast, and there's too much resentment or defensiveness. Maybe someone has a habit or addiction that makes it unsafe or unwise to gather together. Maybe some are vaccinated and some are not, and they just don't understand the other anymore.


These end-of-year holidays seem to increase the social pressure to gather together and at least pretend like everything is almost normal. But the brokenness feels to high a bar to jump. So the blues of broken relationships feels deeper and darker when there is this holiday pressure.


Families get broken in all kinds of ways. The scriptures are full of broken and scattered families. Matriarchs and patriarchs die, and the siblings scatter. Parents and children have an encounter or disagreement and find themselves divided. Partners in life betray or lie, and a family is broken apart.


These things happen in Scripture and are not edited out. Scripture does not write down the Instagram/Facebook filtered smiling happy family if it wasn't truly happy. It tells the truth. It nudges Jacob and Esau back toward one another for their big hug. It nudges Joseph and all his family toward one another together once again in Egypt. Scripture honestly remembers and retells the story of the pain, death, betrayal, or conflict that broke things apart. Then Scripture points to hope and reconciliation not around or despite that brokenness, but through it.


My prayer this holiday season is for peace and healing in our families. I pray broken relationships come back together. I pray those who are hurt or angry will gently speak truth to one another in love, and find grace and forgiveness flowing again in both directions. I pray people will speak honestly about their feelings, and claim full responsibility for their part in the brokenness without attacking or accusing (or even reminding) the other of their part. I pray somehow the relationships in and around this church will inch toward wholeness.


We worship a child born in a manger whom we call Prince of Peace. If he truly is our Lord, then let's invite his peace into our relationships. Let's not strive for the peace the world gives, a peace only when someone is wounded and the other victorious. Let's strive for his peace, one where humility, service, sacrifice, and love wash away what was, and begin again a new life and relationship.

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